Clyde Mayes, Ray Tanner among SC hall of fame class

Clyde Mayes’ career was full of big games, but beating USC in the NCAA tourney still has folks buzzing

Special to The StateMay 13, 2013 

A stroll through Furman University’s basketball archives stirs the souls of the purple-and-white faithful. Moments to savor abound on the journey into yesteryear, and picking the best can be a challenge.

Any mention of Paladins’ basketball begins with Frank Selvy and his scoring 100 points in a single game. Then there’s Selvy leading the nation in scoring for two years and Darrell Floyd doing the same the next two seasons. Whipping Lefty Driesell’s nationally ranked Davidson powerhouse looms large and prompts a question: How does that conquest compare with beating North Carolina and N.C. State on consecutive nights?

Yet, no matter how satisfying those might be, most of the Furman crowd will look to March 9, 1974 — the night the Paladins took out South Carolina’s Gamecocks in the NCAA tournament.

Clyde Mayes certainly does.

More than 39 years later, Mayes relishes that game. He should. He scored 21 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked five shots that night in Philadelphia as Furman beat USC, 75-67.

Really, though, those numbers merely represented a typical night on the court for the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Mayes, and his achievements have at long last been recognized. Twenty-five years after his playing days ended in a European pro league, he has been inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.

With his induction Monday night at ceremonies at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, he no longer will face the why-aren’t-you-in-the-hall questions, his second-most asked query. Instead, he can focus on the most frequent: What about beating the Gamecocks?

“People do remember,” he said. “We had won the Southern Conference, then we beat the Gamecocks in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Obviously, that was a great victory for Furman and very rewarding to the players.

The 22-4 Gamecocks featured future pros Mike Dunleavy, Alex English and Brian Winters and rebounded from a one-point halftime deficit to open a 53-41 lead five minutes into the second half. But Furman did not fold. After USC’s Bob Mathias picked up his fourth foul with 13 minutes remaining, Mayes and the Paladins dominated inside, catching up midway through the period and pulling away at the end.

Looking back, perhaps Furman’s win should have been expected. After all, the Paladins had Mayes, and Mayes could have been a synonym for winning in those days. His high school team, Wade Hampton in Greenville, won two state Class 4A championships, and Furman won the Southern Conference crown in each of his three varsity seasons.

Mayes has been sent to Wade Hampton from Beck High in court-ordered integration, and, he said, “We had a lot of good players; I don’t think we lost but one game after moving to Wade Hampton my junior year, and we went 29-1 my senior season.”

Winning followed in college; Furman dominated the SoCon, and Mayes made the all-league team each season and earned the most outstanding player award twice. He averaged 17.9 points and 12.6 rebounds for his three varsity seasons.

“We had quality players and, really, my sophomore team had the most talent,” he remembered. “But my senior season, we had more confidence and wanted to win every conference game, and we did.”

Mayes earned first-team All-America honors from Basketball Weekly and Citizens Savings Foundation, second-team from The Sporting News and Converse and third-team from The Associated Press. The Milwaukee Bucks made Mayes their second-round draft choice, the 22nd pick overall, and he played for four teams over two seasons in the NBA. He spent the next 11 years playing in Europe and now is back in Greenville.

“I did some (Furman) radio, George Singleton and I ran some basketball camps, and I coached some church-league teams,” he said. “The last six years, I have been GED program coordinator for the Upstate Circle of Friends. I want to help people get their GED degrees, and if they need to be in another program, I try to get them in the right place.

“This is a way I can give back to the community. We all know how important education is, and helping people is rewarding.”

Seeing him again — he still looks like he could be a load on the low blocks — reminds of how well he played and prompts a memory that will always be held dear by the Furman faithful.

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